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What is intimate image abuse?

Intimate image abuse can also be referred to as 'revenge porn', non-consensual pornography or image based sexual abuse. It is the act of sharing intimate images or videos of someone, either on or offline, without their consent.

Who commits intimate image abuse?

This crime can be committed by anyone, often the person responsible is an aggrieved former partner, but NOT always. You do not have to be in a relationship with the perpetrator for it to be considered image based abuse. It can be anyone who shares content without consent.

Why and where is it shared?

Why is it shared?

In some cases the content is shared in an act of revenge to embarrass, humiliate or cause distress to a person after the breakdown of a relationship, but it’s not always about REVENGE. Content can be shared as a way of financial extortion or blackmail, sometimes known as ‘sextortion’, or it can be shared to expose someone who has a high profile status. It can also be an element in a wider case of stalking and harassment or domestic abuse.

Where can it be shared?

As we know, the internet is a massive space for platforms to share content. We see most content shared on social media platforms or general porn websites. In some cases links to the content is emailed or sent to family and friends or employers. Some cases have stemmed from hacked devices or cloud storage (for example the high profile iCloud hack where hundreds of images were accessed, including those of celebrities).

Victims of Intimate Image Abuse

Anyone can be victim of intimate image abuse, regardless of your gender, sexuality and whether you are 18 or 80. Overall, the intention is to cause significant embarrassment, harassment and shame and the effects can be devastating for victims, especially on their mental health and wellbeing. To have explicit images that are deeply personal in the public domain is an emotionally traumatic and violating experience. The effect on victims is often pervasive and long lasting. While they have been the victim of a crime, often individuals internalise feelings of guilt and shame. Depression and anxiety are sadly commonplace. There can be reputational and financial harm from victims being dismissed from employment. Some feel so isolated and overwhelmed they consider suicide. If you are feeling like this, you are not alone, please seek help. People are waiting to listen to you.

The UK Law

In April 2015, the Criminal Justice and Courts Act made it, 'an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film, and with the intention of causing that individual distress'. 

See the full legislation here.

In April 2017, the Sentencing Council included the ‘threat to disclose intimate material or sexually explicit images’, within its guideline for offences under the Communications Act 2003. These guidelines came into effect from 1st October 2018.

What are sentencing guidelines? Guidelines provide guidance on factors the court should take into account that may affect the sentence given. They set out different levels of sentence based on the harm caused to the victim and how blameworthy the offender is. Offences happen in many different ways with many different results.

Scotland legislation

In Scotland, disclosing, or threatening to disclose an intimate photograph or film is an offence under the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016.

Republic of Ireland legislation

‘Revenge porn’ is not currently an offence under Irish law. The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill (2017) is currently at the third stage, also known as the ‘committee stage’ of being included into Irish law. The current version is set to create the following offences under this bill:

  • Distributing intimate images without consent, or threatening to do so with intent to cause harm.
  • Taking or distributing intimate images without consent.
  • Distributing threatening or false messages.  

The bill is currently under examination and amendments may be made, you can follow the history and progression of this law here.

You can see the proposed bill here.

Northern Ireland legislation

In Northern Ireland, under section 51 of the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2016, it is ‘an offence for a person to disclose a private sexual photograph or film if the disclosure is made without the consent of an individual who appears in the photograph or film and with the intention of causing that individual distress’.

Other Relevant Legislation

There are also several other Acts which may cover this type of behaviour:

Upskirting
The act of taking a photograph up someone’s skirt or dress without their consent is referred to as ‘Upskirting’. The UK legislation is set to be included in section 67 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, this will bring the punishment for ‘upskirting’ in line with other existing sexual offences, including voyeurism, and the changes will see offenders face a maximum of two years in prison. 
If you are interested in the progression of this offence, you can follow the government press release information here:
Government acts to make upskirting a specific offence
Upskiting law moves a step closer 

‘Upskirting’ is already a crime in Scotland since the amendment of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 under the offence of Voyeurism. It is against Scottish law to operate equipment beneath someone’s clothing to observe and/or record their genitals or buttocks, exposed or covered by clothing, without their consent. 

Anonymity
Since the creation of image based abuse offences in the UK, a large amount of cases of victims taking their perpetrators to the justice system are dropped due to their anonymity being denied. It was reported in June 2018, that 1 in 3 allegations were dropped before making it to court. (See this BBC article here)

In other sexual offences, such as rape, the identity of the victim is hidden from media and the general public and their name or any personal information cannot be released. For victims of image based abuse, their identity is not hidden. Due to the distress and humiliation nature of the offence, this often discourages victims to pursue their justice rights. 

We are working alongside the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, to campaign for the disclosure of private images to be reclassified as a sexual offence to give victims the right to anonymity and identity protection. Read more about the #NoMoreNaming campaign here
 

International organisations that can help

The Revenge Porn Helpline is only funded to support victims of intimate image abuse in the UK. If you are not from the UK but require support for this abuse, you may find your country’s organisation here.

United States of America

Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI)

Provide emotional support, technical advice and information for victims of online abuse. You can contact their 24/7 helpline via phone or victim intake web form.  

Website: www.cybercivilrights.org
Phone: +1-844-878-2274
Victim intake web form: www.cybercivilrights.org/victim-intake-form

Canada

Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)

A multi-service organisation supporting women and girls against violence and human rights violations.

Website: ywcacanada.ca/en
Contact via your local association: ywcacanada.ca/en/pages/national/associations

Australia   

The office of eSafety Commissioner

Support all Australians who have experienced image-based abuse. They provide reporting options, support and resources for victims, their family and friends, and bystanders.

Website: www.esafety.gov.au/image-based-abuse
Support: www.esafety.gov.au/image-based-abuse/support
Report: www.esafety.gov.au/image-based-abuse/action/remove-images-video/report-to-us

New Zealand

Netsafe

An organisation focused on online safety. They help people stay safe online by providing online safety education, advice and support. They can provide information and advice about using digital technology safely, and about managing online challenges like online harassment, bullying abuse and scams. Offer help and support for victims of image based abuse.

Website: www.netsafe.org.nz/image-based-abuse
Phone: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
Text: 4282
Email: help@netsafe.org.nz
Report: www.netsafe.org.nz/report

Bengaluru, India    

Parihar

A partnership with Bengaluru City Police led by Mrs Rani Shetty, they provide support and advice for people who have had intimate images shared without their consent.

Website: www.bcpparihar.org/about-us 
Phone: 080 22943225 or 22943224
Email: pariharfcc.vsv@gmail.com

Pakistan

Digital Rights Foundation Cyber Harrassment Helpline 

A helpline for victims of online harassment and violence in Pakistan. The Helpline provides free and confidential legal advice, digital security support, psychological counselling and a referral system to victims of online harassment. The Helpline will provide a judgment-free, private and gender-sensitive environment for all its callers. 

Website: www.digitalrightsfoundation.pk/cyber-harassment-helpline
Phone: 0800 39393
Email: helpdesk@digitalrightsfoundation.pk

Finland     

Naisten Linja

The organisation is intended for women of all ages who are experiencing violence or are worried about violence, they offer help and support for women experiencing digital violence.

Website: www.naistenlinja.fi
Digital violence information: www.naistenlinja.fi/tietoa-vakivallasta/vakivallan-muodot/digitaalinenvakivalta
Phone: 0800 02400
Web form: www.naistenlinja.fi/palvelut/kysymys-vastaus

Japan  

Safer Internet Association Safe Line Japan

Handle reports from the public regarding illegal content and harmful content on the internet that could lead users to become the victims of crime.

Website: www.saferinternet.or.jp
Contact via web form: www.saferinternet.or.jp/form

Taiwan  

The Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (TWRF)

Focus on women and have recently supported victims who have intimate sexual images shared without consent.

Website: advocacy3.wixsite.com/twrf-antirevengeporn/about-us
Phone: +886-2-2555-8595
Email: advocacy@twrf.org.tw